In 2002, we set out to find a new home town. But with almost 20,000 “incorporated places” in the United States, we certainly couldn’t visit all of them or even read about them. So how did we begin?
First, we recognized that we were “east coasters.” The idea of living in the West or Midwest was simply unappealing. And high speed internet access was essential for my home-base business, which led us toward living “in town.” Other “musts” included:
- Four seasons with moderate summers and winters. This narrowed our search are to southern Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
- Low likelihood of natural disasters. Coastal areas have hurricanes and rising sea levels. Mountains have lots of cold and snow.
- Low cost of living, ruling out major cities.
This narrowed our search to the area west of Interstate 95 and east of the mountains in just three states – still a large area but at least a way to start the search. What better excuse for a road trip in a rented RV with no particular destination in mind. We began by traveling to South Carolina.
Randomly exiting the Interstate, we followed what looked like interesting roads. We soon arrived in a quaint little town that had great visual appeal. There was a beautiful town square with an old courthouse and some nice older homes along the main street. We immediately learned that we wanted a home town with a sense of history.
A couple of days in the area taught us even more. There wasn’t a big grocery store with a wide selection of foods. There wasn’t a department store or even a Walmart. The nearest Costco was over 100 miles away. At a population of about 5,000, the town was just too small to have the kinds of shopping we prefer.
A little online research led us to towns with a population of 25,000 or more to have the amenities we wanted while still avoiding the larger cities. Staying within our geographic boundaries, this narrowed our choices to about 25 places. But which one? Time for another road trip, but this time to North Carolina.
Much as we wanted to find a North Carolina place, it wasn’t in the cards. We may have missed it, but we didn’t find the right size town with an eye toward preserving their history. But then we wandered through some nice towns in Virginia. It seemed there was a sense of history in the Old Dominion. South central Virginia became the next target.
I remember my first full day in Danville because of the people. We’d never experienced so many friendly people starting a conversation on the street or inviting us to have coffee – a bit of “southern charm.” The homes were beautiful, the museum was outstanding, and the cost of living was low.
With a little over 40,000 people, Danville was just the right size – big enough to have most everything we wanted yet small enough to be personal. It’s history was visible, preserved, and important to its residents. The city was also working hard become an even better place to live.
Like Goldilocks testing the temperature of the three bears’ porridge and the softness of their beds, we found our “just right.” We still think so today. Perhaps Danville, Virginia, would be just right for you as well.